September 11, 2011

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 11: Monsters

Original Air Date: September 6, 2006
Director: Ken Girotti

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com

Charlotte and Thorne

Blade gets trapped in Charlotte's web.

When the TV series Lost was approaching its series finale, my wife and I would watch every episode faithfully and then discuss our thoughts on that episode with each other.  On the second-to-last episode my wife expressed disappointment in the episode; how so little happened and it seemed like filler.

Unfortunately that is a pattern I have found with lots of action and sci-fi television series.  When leading up to a climactic episode (usually during sweeps, often a season or series finale) there is far too often an episode that merely exists to set everything up, so that the final episode may be almost entirely devoted to the showdown.  All the pieces must be in place when we ramp into the final episode.

The problem with such episodes is they’re often extraordinarily dull.  The story arcs have been leading to this point for a season or more, so an entire episode just to remind us of what we loyal viewers already know comes off as filler and, worse, as poor writing.

There are also financial concerns to consider..  Series producers want their shows to go out with a bang, and leave the audience wanting more.  In television series the cost-per-episode is not consistent–sometimes they cheap out on one episode so they can spend more on the next, and these set-up episodes almost always feel like they were purchased at a Dollar General.

Which leads me to Monsters, the second-to-last ever episode of Blade the TV series….

I really had hoped for another standalone plot after previous episode Hunters, but I didn’t really expect it.  With only two hours left I figured we’d return to the uprising of vampire Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson) in the House of Chthon, and the rogue vampire Boone (Bill Mondy) coming to take revenge on Marcus.

Blade and Collins

After a season of searching, Collins and Blade finally team up to hunt vampires.

In some ways, that is what we get.  Our A-story starts off with House of Chthon elder Charlotte (Emily Hirst) and her goon Thorne (John DeSantis who played Lurch on The New Addams Family) flying back home.  Marcus’ aide Chase (Jessica Gower) had pretended to dish on her employer and given Charlotte the hilt to Blade’s sword.  However, hidden inside the handle was an explosive, which sends Charlotte’s airplane crashing to the ground when it detonates.  It’s presumed by all that everyone was killed on impact, but Charlotte and Thorne emerge from the wreckage and slaughter a small town to obtain the blood they need to heal their injuries.  How did they survive the crash in the first place?  The writers speak through Blade when he mutters “doesn’t matter.”  They just needed to get the plot set up!

News of the plane crash forces Blade to seek help from his new partner…FBI Agent Ray Collins (Larry Poindexter)!  It turned out the reason the coroner reappered a couple episodes back was merely to tip Collins off that Blade was somewhere in Detroit.  Based on that information, Collins walks right into Blade’s lair.  Through his FBI connections Collins is able to find out where the plane went down.  Blade doesn’t think Charlotte survived, but wonders if any records on the location of the House of Chthon conclave may have survived the crash.

Of course, this is a bit of a paradox.  Collins came to Blade wanting to stop Marcus, but Blade says he and Marcus have the same goals–death to vampires.  With the enemy of Blade’s enemy being Blade’s friend, Blade wants to let Marcus finish his plot..and yet Blade seems intent on knowing every detail.  But maybe that will be explained next episode?

Airplane Crash

Throw some burning cardboard around and pretend it's a crashed airplane. Isn't that what Lost did? No? Okay then.

But in this episode, what we get for the next hour are Blade and Collins searching the crash and following the trail of Charlotte and Thorne to a local school, all the while swapping war stories.  For a laconic hero, Blade is pretty forthcoming to Collins–both about methods to kill vampires and about Shen’s (Nelson Lee) backstory.  This gives me another peak into my favorite supporting character.  It turns out Shen is hunting a couple of vampires (presumably the ones who took his sister).  Shen’s agreement with Blade is when Blade finds the vampires, Shen gets the honor of killing them.

In response, Collins shares his backstory–he caught a serial killer, but an improperly executed warrant allowed him to go free and murder Collins wife and daughter.  Collins went rogue, executing the killer before he could have a second trial.  Since then he has used “unorthodox methods” to stop criminals.

It seems like Blade and Collins have a partnership made in vampire heaven, and the two work together in the school killing vampire townies in some lackluster fights.  Seeing the vampire hunters’ success, Charlotte traps Collins by pretending to be a scared child.  Perhaps due to the death of his own daughter, Collins falls for it and Charlotte bites him.

Blade and Thorne have the best fight in the episode (which isn’t saying much).  After dusting Thorne, Blade goes to confront Charlotte, who makes Blade the same offer Deacon Frost did in the first movie–join us, work with us.  Blade responds with his glaive and dusts Charlotte.

Charlotte's Death

Charlotte's death is a bright spot in this episode.

That is the first of two lackluster deaths.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad to see Charlotte go.  The character had promise, but the actress ruined it for me.  Every word she uttered thudded to the ground, and I’ve commented on it in each review where she appeared, so I will not linger on this topic.  I just hope I never have to see actress Emily Hirst in anything again.  However, it was an anticlimactic death for a character built up as a supposedly powerful foil for Marcus.

But that is nothing compared to what comes next.

Blade is reluctant to stake his new partner after bonding on the hunt, but Collins knows it’s necessary.  So Blade dusts the former agent.  Talk about an aborted plotline!  For ten hours I’ve watched Collins hunt rogue cop/vampire Boone across the country.  Now Collins is killed so arbitrarily in a school?  How can the show not give me a Collins/Boone showdown?  How can we not get the “you’ve been looking for me, here I am” moment?  But no, Collins is killed for no reason, accomplishing nothing in this series.  What a freaking waste of my time, and of a character.

Now Collins did lead Blade to recover items from the plane wreckage Shen is able to track to the conclave in Toronto, but that does not justify the length of this character’s arc.  It’s as purposeful as the easily-forgotten coroner telling Collins about Blade.  Finding the plane is a job for any minor character, not one who’s story we’ve followed the whole season.

This is poor, poor writing, and it angers me greatly.  Now maybe the writers aren’t entirely to blame–many things influence television show evolution, including actor contracts, reduced episode orders, and so on.  But given Blade only lasted one season I cannot imagine any of that happening here.  That the Boone/Collins storyline arced over the whole season and ended this way is just frustrating.  If this is the way the show would have continued, I am glad it was not renewed after this season.

As for our B-plot, following Blade’s House of Chthon undercover spy Krista Starr (Jill Wagner) and Marcus’ plan to kill all the Chthon purebloods, very little happens.  We see Krista and Marcus having some loving moments, and Krista is torn between her attraction to the kind, gentle Marcus with whom she makes love, and her disgust for the vampiric, violent Marcus who ruthlessly kills without remorse.  This is, of course, setting up suspense for the finale where Krista must surely choose sides once and for all.

Chase and Krista

I don't know if Chase is going to kiss Krista or kill her. I'd be up for watching either.

Meanwhile, Chase is becoming more jealous of Krista’s place at Marcus’ side and in Marcus’ bed–a jealousy fueled when Marcus gives Krista a locket once owned by his human wife.  There is a slightly erotic scene where I wasn’t sure if Chase was threatening Krista or hitting on her.  Chase stands close to Krista and kisses her on the lips, but also talks about how Chase sees Krista as “a hollow little girl playing hollow little games”.

And as for Marcus?  When he’s not enjoying a romp with Krista, he’s killing his familiar contractors.  Marcus demands a special air handling system be put in place but his favorite architect Tucker (Freddy vs. Jason‘s Tom Butler) threatens to quit if Marcus doesn’t scale back.  Marcus, realizing Tucker is too valuable to kill, threatens everyone Tucker knows if the work is not done.  Of course, Tucker acquiesces.  And the air system?  My guess is it’s the delivery mechanism for the Aurora virus that will kill the purebloods.  I wish the show would have kept its hand a little more hidden.

Blade meditates

Blade is ready for the final fight, and so am I!

As I said above, this episode is getting the pieces in place for the showdown; it’s unfortunate they had to spend a full episode of the series doing so.

But we end this episode with Blade meditating, then vamping out and roaring for no apparent reason, I hope it’s because the finale is coming, and Blade and Shen get to kick some ass.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

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